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Neither Five Nor Three

Helen Macinnes



  Pray for a Brave Heart

  Above Suspicion

  Assignment in Brittany

  North From Rome

  Decision at Delphi

  The Venetian Affair

  The Salzburg Connection

  Message From Málaga

  While We Still Live

  The Double Image


  Snare of the Hunter

  Agent in Place

  Neither Five Nor Three

  Print edition ISBN: 9781781161562

  E-book edition ISBN: 9781781161623

  Published by Titan Books

  A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd

  144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP

  First edition: December 2012

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  © 1951, 2012 by the Estate of Helen MacInnes. All rights reserved.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

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  To Naomi with love

  To think that two and two are four

  And neither five nor three

  The heart of man has long been sore

  And long ’tis like to be


  Table of Contents

  I. Thesis

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  II. Antithesis

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  III. Synthesis

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  About the Author



  The dawn came slowly, cold and clear, thinning out the night sky.

  It’s coming slowly, Paul Haydn thought, because we are running ahead of the sun. Then he smiled at his fancy as he looked down at the floor of clouds below him. He watched them change from blanched shapeless ghosts into a foaming sea of sun-streaked waves, their curling crests held motionless, poised but never spent. A traveller, fifty years from now, hurtling through the skies, would find that dawns came even more slowly for planes flying westwards. Or would he be travelling in a plane, fifty years from now? Then suddenly, Paul Haydn noticed that the clouds were no longer a sea beneath him, hiding the real ocean. We’re coming down, he thought, at last we are getting near land, we’re getting near America. Yes, there was a stretch of the Atlantic, a dark grey sheet of corrugated iron. He sat up abruptly, stretched his back muscles and his legs.

  His excitement, controlled as he tried to keep it, woke Brownlee sitting beside him. The other passengers in the plane—the two congressmen and their secretaries and the brigadier-general who had accompanied them from Berlin, the silent worried sergeant who had joined the plane at Frankfurt, the three ECA officials returning from the Rhineland—were still slumped in sleep, their faces wiped clean of expression, their troubles, their hopes, their failures, their achievements all forgotten.

  “Won’t be long now,” Paul said to Brownlee by way of apology. His smile made him younger, more like the Paul Haydn whom Brownlee had first met in London eight years ago.

  Brownlee, still not moving, still gathering all the parts of his mind together that sleep had unlocked and left lying loosely around, answered Paul’s smile slowly. He yawned, stretched his arms, eased the muscles on his neck, and rubbed the blood back into his cheek where, as he had slept, it had rested too heavily against the eagle on his shoulder. He said, his smile broadening, “For a man who stayed away so long, you sound pretty eager to return.”

  “I guess I’ve been away long enough,” Paul Haydn said. Then his grey eyes looked sharply at his friend. “And what’s amusing you?”

  “The difference that eight years can make in a man.”

  “Don’t know if I think that’s altogether funny.”

  “You wouldn’t be altogether pleased if eight years left no differences.” Brownlee studied Paul’s face. “When we first met in London in 1942, you were a very new lieutenant in a very smart uniform, an enthusiastic young crusader—”

  “On the brash side,” Paul amended. He shook his head as he remembered himself then. “At least,” he added, “I’ve learned that life is not all that easy.” Besides, his watchful eyes seemed to say, I’m not the only one who has changed a lot in eight years. Brownlee was thinner and more worried, his hair was almost white now; and yet, since the war had ended, he had been stationed in Washington, not in Germany as Paul had been. When Paul met him in Berlin only a couple of days ago (Brownlee had been taking the congressmen around the DP camps), Paul was as much surprised by the outward changes in Brownlee as he was by their meeting. A lucky meeting, though. If it hadn’t been for Brownlee, he wouldn’t have had this quick transportation home. And a good meeting, too. He liked Brownlee, even if Brownlee had been his superior officer all through the war.

  “Yes, life seemed easier eight years ago,” Brownlee was saying. “In spite of everything, it seemed easier. All we had to do was to win that damned war, and then—if we were lucky—slip back into peace. Everything was more black and white, then. You knew where the dangers lay.”

  Paul Haydn only nodded. He was glad of the stir around them as the others in the plane were wakened and warned of the landing ahead. He wasn’t going to get entangled in any more discussions. Brownlee was still very skilful at steering the conversation his way.

  Brownlee seemed to be concentrating on fastening his safety belt, too. But he was still remembering Paul Haydn in London, eight years ago, excited about his assignment to the Free French and his work with the underground resistance in Brittany. He had done well in that job, including some extremely active service inside Occupied France. After the Liberation, Brownlee had lost immediate touch with Haydn, but he had kept track of him. Captain in Intelligence, examining German prisoners. Then Frankfurt. Assigned to counter-propaganda. Munich. DP camps. Berlin. And the young, smartly uniformed lieutenant with the friendly grey eyes, the disarming smile, the dark close-cropped hair, and the features which had been so regular that they were almost characterless, had become a major with some faded ribbons on his chest. His smile wasn’t so ready, now. The dark hair showed some grey at the temples. The regular features had
lost their pleasant anonymity and gained a determined, capable look. Now, too, his eyes were watchful; more serious, less amused by life; less expectant of good, and yet—with Paul’s essential optimism that even Europe hadn’t altogether withered—still hopeful of finding it.

  “Why did you stay away so long?” Brownlee asked suddenly.

  “Never could get transport.”

  Brownlee grinned. “You always had a surprising sense of duty, I remember.”

  “What’s so surprising about it?”

  “Because you never seemed particularly respectful about anything.”

  “I agreed I was a brash young man,” Paul admitted with a smile.

  “With the right impulses,” Brownlee said. “And I’m still betting on them.” His tone was light, but his alert brown eyes were serious. “Given any thought to the proposition I made at lunch yesterday?”

  Paul Haydn hesitated. “Not too much,” he said frankly. “You weren’t specific enough, I guess.”

  “I couldn’t be. You’ve got to see this thing for yourself, Paul. I’m not a draft board, you know. I want volunteers.”

  “Look, I’ve done enough volunteering. When I’m finished with the army, I’m finished. I’ve had enough duty to last me the rest of my life.” His face was once more determined, guarded. He turned his head away and looked out of the window.

  “This isn’t an army job,” Brownlee said patiently. “Once you’ve had your leave, run around, settled down and started your career again, come and have a chat with me. By that time, either you’ll know what I’ve been talking about, or you won’t care. That’s when you can give me a definite answer.”

  “I’m giving it to you now. Sorry, but I’m—look! There she is! Look—will you look at that?” Paul grabbed Roger Brownlee’s arm as if to make sure that he wouldn’t miss this, either.

  It was New York, its clear-cut buildings squared and neat, its towers and pinnacles gleaming in the early sunlight, its silent streets running like straight dark threads below the myriad shining windows. It was New York, cool, remote, beautiful.

  “We’re coming in too low,” Brownlee said, glancing worriedly at his brigadier-general and the congressmen.

  “Suits me,” Paul said. He didn’t take his eyes away from the window. He said nothing more.

  Brownlee took his note-book and pencil out of his pocket and wrote quickly. “Tuck this in your pocket,” he said to Haydn. “It’s my telephone number.” He tore the page from his note-book and held it out.

  “At the Pentagon?” That seemed unnecessary, Paul thought.

  “No. At my own office. I’m becoming a civilian, too.”

  Paul Haydn stared.

  Brownlee said, nodding in the direction of the congressmen, “This is my last job in uniform.”

  “But—” began Paul, and then stopped. You didn’t ask Brownlee questions.

  “Because the job I want to do now is better done as a civilian,” Brownlee said quietly.

  “But your seniority, your—” Paul stopped again. If Roger Brownlee was giving that all up, then he was really worried. Paul looked at him, and buttoned the slip of paper safely into his tunic pocket. Then, like everyone else in the plane, he concentrated on the landing for the next minute or two.

  “Reporters,” Brownlee said, looking out of the window as he unstrapped his safety belt. “Time I was joining my congressmen, again. Did I tell you they were very upset about the hordes of new DPs all streaming into our Zone?” He was smiling wryly.

  “About time someone was getting upset,” Paul answered grimly. Then, as he rose to follow Brownlee who had become very much the capable colonel again, he told himself to forget it, he had had enough of being harrowed and harried, now he was going to cut himself a slice of peace. He was five years behind most of his friends, but he’d still back himself a good slice. There was plenty to go around.

  He stopped beside the sergeant. “Are you going straight to the hospital? I’ll give you a lift.”

  “The colonel said he’d take care of me, sir,” the sergeant replied. Normally, he would have a cheerful pugnacious look on that square face with its wide mouth. But now, worried by the news of his wife’s illness, he was grim and sullen.

  “The colonel may be held back by the reporters: I’ll give you a lift.”

  The sergeant picked up his kit and followed Paul. “Her mother wrote,” he began to explain, if only to talk out his troubles, “she said there might be a chance if the wife could see me.”

  “Then the sooner the better.”

  “Yes, sir.” He looked patiently at the congressmen still asking last questions of the brigadier-general, while the secretaries recounted the bulging suitcases. The ECA men were talking politely if condescendingly to the colonel, who after all had only a military mind. Paul Haydn managed to catch Brownlee’s eye, and he nodded towards the sergeant. Brownlee understood quickly enough. He was that kind of man, Paul thought, as he watched Brownlee speak quietly to the general. In a few minutes, the plane’s exit was clear. The civilians were somehow persuaded not to be photographed from the gangplank, not to pose there while they made their statements to the Press. They were grouped together on the lower eminence of solid ground, and the sergeant and Paul had a free path before them.

  Yes, Brownlee was that kind of man, Paul thought as he stepped out of the plane. He gave his last official salute, colonel sir, and caught an answering smile in Roger Brownlee’s eyes.

  As he fell into step with the sergeant away from the plane and the little groups of VIPs being photographed, toward the long line of buildings with their stretches of smooth concrete and shining glass, he was still thinking about Brownlee and what he had said yesterday in Berlin. Odd that Brownlee should go off on such a tangent as that... Then Paul remembered these were not the thoughts he had intended to land with. As he left the plane, as he reached good American ground, he was going to have said, “Well, there’s the last of Europe. Here’s where I begin my own life again. Here is where I find peace.” But like most dramatic speeches, it had been left unsaid. Because of Brownlee...

  A reporter caught up with them. “And how’s Berlin?” he asked.

  “Ask them,” Paul Haydn said with a grin and nodded back towards the plane. “We’re just a couple of guys who hitched a ride.”

  “No story?” The reporter, young, eager, stared at them in disappointment. He had been sure that there was a good story somewhere, when a brigadier-general had got off a plane so hurriedly to let a sergeant and a major get out.

  The sergeant shifted the weight of his kit. “No story, Jack,” he said decidedly.

  “He’ll go far,” Paul said, looking after the reporter, “as soon as he learns to play his hunches.” Then he looked at the sergeant in consternation. “He’s only a kid—why, he’s a good ten years younger than we are!” A new stage in my life, he thought wryly. He began looking at the men who were polishing the glass and steel doors, at the men inside the hallways and waiting rooms, at the men behind the information desks. In this new discovery, he almost forgot to look at the girls. That would have been indeed a sign that to be thirty-three was practically verging on dotage.

  “How about a sandwich and some real American coffee?” he asked the sergeant. And the man, forgetting his nagging worry for a moment as he looked round the enormous building alive even at this early hour with people, his own people, smiled.

  “Sounds good to me, sir,” he said.

  “Yes,” Paul said, listening to the voices around him. “Everything sounds good.” He smiled, too.

  * * *

  Rona Metford had been sleeping lightly because she had warned herself, last night, that today was a day for rising early, a day for a rigid timetable. The plane, flying so low over Manhattan, wakened her completely. She looked at the small clock beside her bed. “Oh no!” she said. It was five o’clock in the morning.

  “There should be a law,” she told the plane’s roar angrily as it receded to leave peace and sleeplessness. T
hen she remembered there was a law; so she thought bitterly of the pilot, instead.

  But her annoyance didn’t last long. Her mind was too full of today’s plans. She lay in bed, stretching comfortably, enjoying its warmth and softness. Outside the blankets, the little room was cool and fresh, partly because of its green curtains against white walls, partly because the early April air had still a sharp edge to it—last week, there had been snow. She could tell from the bright colour of the gently moving curtains that this morning was sunny and clear-skyed. (On grey threatening mornings, their green was cold and lifeless.) That cheered her. At least, her guests wouldn’t arrive for the party tonight with rubbers and heavy coats to jam the tiny hall or with dripping umbrellas to fill the small bathroom.

  “Oh, I hope it goes well!” she said to the ceiling. Then she sat up in bed and she looked at Scott’s photograph on the dressing-table. Of course it would go well. She blew him a kiss and pulled the green ribbon off her hair. Last night, she remembered with a smile, last night had been a good night... She looked down at her left hand and its engagement ring. Yes, all her recent worries had been pointless. Last night, everything had been normal again, everything had been happy and gay and all the fears of last month had become so many silly shadows. Scott had told her he loved her, in a hundred ways he had told her. She knew just by the way he had looked at her, had talked for her and laughed with her, even by the way he had fallen silent as he watched her. She was the loveliest girl in the whole place, he had said at the theatre. She was the most wonderful girl, he had said as they danced. She was his girl, he had said afterward.

  He does love me, after all he does love me, she thought as she hugged her bare shoulders suddenly: I am the luckiest girl in all New York. And she slipped out of bed to run and open the curtains and welcome a new day. Then she turned to the dressing-table to brush her dark hair—it was too long, now, but Scott wouldn’t let her cut it. Her large brown eyes, emphasised by well-shaped brows and black eyelashes, laughed at her in the mirror. What did Scott say last night about the curve of the lashes, and the curve of her cheek?—Enough, she told herself, or you’ll end by thinking you are Récamier. What sweet nonsense Scott could talk! But as she looked at herself, critically now, she found she was vain enough to be glad that her hips and breasts curved as they did from her slender waist. And she laughed again, and kissed the photograph.